1,000 miles: step 79

The fall semester is now over.

I have submitted “finals,” known as projects to the English major. Grades are coming in. I have gaps of time–yes, time. It has all gone by so fast.  This semester I made a savvy choice, and I took all poetry classes: a small-sized workshop, a course taught in Spanish, and a course covering African American poetry from the 50s and beyond. I’m grateful for the semester; I gained exposure to an unbelievable range of poets and interesting perspectives from classmates.

At school, I ate a waffle in the library, learned a little salsa, attended a few open mics, carved a pumpkin, and started a gym routine. I didn’t plan some of these things; they just worked themselves out. I also attended two literary festivals in September: the Library of Congress National Book Festival in DC and Fall for the Book events on campus. In November, I spent three hours at the African American History and Culture Museum. Time spent well, all in all.

In the spring, I’m once again taking poetry classes. I want my final days as an undergrad to be full of poetry. When I think of the future, it is still scary, but I’m more willingly to get there.

2016 has been good to me. There have been bad days. I’m not going to lie: I spent post-election day crying–mourning to be precise. This week wasn’t entirely good either. Tuesday night I was upset with news of Aleppo. Wednesday morning I woke up further into sadness with this tweet still in my mind:

And it is because today I am alive, and yesterday I was alive, that I am thinking of everything–support, laughter, art, growth– that 2016 has offered me.

Thank you, world.

fall2016

self-effaced

It’s not about you. It’s about me, always.
This is me: hopelessly lost, hopelessly self-consumed
in irrational ideas about how
if I knew you, then I would know myself.

It’s been hard pinning down my existence,
so I try to find a you to define,
someone to know forwards and backwards,
looking for the possibility I’ve been effaced
into the stare of glossy eyes that can never see me,
into the grip of hands that can never hold me,
into the warmth of a body that can never love me.

It’s not you. It’s always me.
every luscious and unpalatable
shade of my being.

The world is a dangerous place to live —

The world is a dangerous place to live — not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
–Albert Einstein

The world is a dangerous place to live for sure. There is in an awe-striking art about impeccable housekeeping, known to Mother Earth. She has taught her knowledge in bold, forceful ways. Shakes, eruptions, and waterfalls. She is a creature of focused repetition. She will not listen to lullabies. She sings her own songs, inducing flowers to grow on concrete. Her command succinctly whispered, flower petals will waltz in the breeze. She continues her task over millennia despite those crowded, hasty growing human spaces upon her.

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2014-04-11 17.36.09

2014-04-11 17.38.11

2014-04-11 17.38.32

Words are not stable

Oh, no, words are not stable.

in a fleeing flutter,  they can easily pass me by.

When they settle, it’s at their own pace.

They are happy to run into each other,

to intermingle, and still, I try

to build with them permanent monuments:

to host the history of my memories

and visitors to my curiosities…

when given a chance.

Delete All

The digital age is delivered through screens

lit brighter than the streets where women “asked for it.”
Your digital presence is filtered,
fitted to your taste of self-disclosure
to your choice of entering compressed pixels.
There is anonymity and there is
the illusion of a moment well-captured, well-lived.

There is loudness wrapped
in a tamed revolution of mass audiences.
If you hustle, you could become sensational
though you may lose sensibility along the way.

Then there is me,
stuck in uncertainty. Where to begin
when it seems I’ve been granted new courage
to say the things I leave unsaid in real time.
But to my words my name must be attached:

If I say I hate you
[delete]
If I say I love you
[delete]
If I say whatever, however, I should know
words can’t, may not be taken
back if absolutely spilled–heard, read, felt–
Must I not take ownership of my voice?

1,000 miles: step 52

I found Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar on my local library shelf’s today (and will be taking it off my to-read shelf shortly). I kind of wish I had come in knowing nothing about the author. Digesting an author’s work as autobiography, is a dangerous temptation. I would hate to have every single creative text I write be interpreted as a personal life experience.

I feel like gobbling up the story in one sittng. I won’t. Because if I get attached to the world Plath has created, reading the last page will crush me. Final pages are always a small reminder that good and beautiful things must come to an end.

When I was younger, such thrills over reading were frequent.

There’s something about finding in a text a little mirror to your self, that’s so very special. That those words speak to you, seem to be made for you, that somebody who has never met you wrote those words… it’s nothing short of a happy coincidence. I grew up, in part, raised by the stories I read. I don’t remember them all. I just know they’re among the reasons I see things the way I do, believe what I believe, find humor in the things I do…

Tonight, I’m thinking there’s something wrong in the way academics reduces reading into analytical work. I’ve always been good at essay writing. Though, somewhere in tackling texts for an A’s sake, I lost track of the little girl who read for leisure. I’m sure I can find her again–though she’s not so little anymore, and she’s certainty not reading children’s stories.

1,000 miles: step 50

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A little over a year ago, I resolved to wake up earlier in the mornings. I wasn’t too successful. Though I’ve certainty made progress, particularly in the latter half of 2013 (thanks to a job over the summer and many calculus study sessions).

And though time is far too precious, I find that making use of it when you’re on a holiday break gets tough. Come next year, the goal is to get my transfer applications done. A job and scholarship in the bag would be great, too.

This past semester, a small scholarship from the Fairfax Library Foundation helped cover for a good portion of tuition.  The morning I got the news was one of those “I can’t believe I’m awake” moments– in every meaning of the word awake. Paying for college as an immigrant student is a feat, so the smallest help is a great relief.

Come next year, I’m also resolved to put my immigration status in the background. I’ve found that the constant reminder is a sort of an unnecessary pressure on the limits of my imagination. I remember being in high school and paper documentation being the last thing on my mind.

No paper should ever validate a person’s dreams.

cheers for tomorrow

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Robert Rosselle’s ceramic sculpture at the Torpedo Factory
Alexandria, VA

1,000 miles: step 46

Most mornings find me tightly bound to my blanket, ignoring every one of my three rise-and-shine alarms.

I read once (in one of my favorite novels growing up, Spinelli’s Stargirl) that we are most alive, most human in those first moments after waking up. I find some truth in the idea, particularly after I’ve woken up from a strange dream.

But honestly, isn’t life itself a strange dream?

Maybe the product of a brilliant, boundless imaginative writer. The universe’s conception from nothing takes my breath away; I seldom think about it for if I did, I’d need to stock up on oxygen.

And don’t get me started on how destruction and creation coexist… dangling mysteries and reality.

While these years of higher education have put some distance between myself and a dear-God, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a bit of holy in daily life that I’ve stopped noticing.

A few weeks ago, I sat at my balcony and watched the wind blow dandelions seeds. Scattered. Slow-moving bits. Floating up, as if to no end.

Watching seed by seed pass me by, I was reminded of a classmate reading an autobiographical piece over a year ago. She described making wishes upon dandelions seeds as a child. The way in which she described the moment… like it was very  much alive in her memory struck me.

I thought then, as I do now, where have those fond memories of mine gone?

Today, as I walked out of class to a glowing, half hidden moon, I kept thinking: I wouldn’t have seen such a night as a kid. I wouldn’t have been allowed to walk myself home if the moon was up.

I don’t give it much thought, but it’s so thrilling to grow up. And it’s terrifying. In my final year as a teen (nineteen), I find that I’m not only growing older…

I’m growing younger. It’s a thought hard to pin down, but I’ve seen so many adult-child’s, that I know well enough:

life and death,

youth and old age,

are close friends.

1,000 miles: step 42

I’ve been changing my mind.

A lot.

These days.

I’ve always thought of myself as stubborn. That what I say I will do is the final word. It’s not.

….

Lately, I’ve been wondering what I want to do with my college education. More specifically, what am I getting out of it? Is spending my mom’s custodian salary worth chasing my dreams? What are those dreams again?

On my room hangs a picture of a fireworks celebration at the University of Virginia. I have it labeled “GOAL.” I’ve had the picture since my 9th grade year of high school. But high school was centuries ago. This year, I no longer feel tenderness towards UVA.

I’m not as comfortable with making a living as a teacher. Or a writer. Or a professor who writes. Whatever the case, I won’t be making money.  This never vexed me before.

Today, one of my teachers rephrased my money question for me: can I manage happiness with “lack of money”?

I want to tell myself, that if anyone can make it work, that would be me. Because I’m already there. I’ve been here since the day I was born to a 15-going-on 16 year old mother. And if God granted mothers, I would choose her all over again in a heartbeat. I can’t imagine it any other way: rich or poor, she’s mine.

When there are days like this (and there are many), it all goes back to Mami. Being a first generation student, a college education is dear to me. Education is dear to me. In my mother’s struggles to pay the rent, I have reason enough to be patient, to endure these many years of college.

If only my heart weren’t so fickle.

1,000 miles: step 41

Yet another summer to begin waving good-bye to–and even though fall is my favorite time of year, I’m finding that I already miss this summer. And not because it was particularly nice. I miss it because it was a dash of dreadful, and I thought there would be so much more… Life can disappoint every once in a while.

I’ve learned a lot about people in these past months. Some of the obvious things: ways in which people change and stay constant. Ways in which they come and go, parting the air and refreshing your oxygen.

But the hardest lesson to learn came through working in the retail business. Turns out large crowds and speedy, friendly conversations isn’t my calling. Even when books are involved. Especially when books are involved.

When I told my manager “this isn’t working out for me,” she completely understood. Honestly, she was surprised I hadn’t had some sort of melt down up until then. According to an ex-coworker, I’m like one of those boxes labeled “fragile”–and I’ve suspected, for some time now, human being is just a guise. I survived though.

Now, I have to wonder if I’ll survive my actual calling years into the future. Whether or not I will be able to handle a classroom of students if I couldn’t tolerate them outside the classroom… whether or not it will matter to me how underpaid teachers are after earning minimum wage this summer.

And as always, I must remind myself my calling is today, this day, this now… such as textbook readings that need to get done.  Or even better, enjoying a twist of pop music for the bajillionth time.